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Tampa Transit Officials Demonstrate Potential of Connected Vehicles

Nov 13, 2017

Part of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa was shut down for a few hours on Monday while a vehicle directly connected to traffic signals took to the road for the first time. 

As part of a new pilot project, the Tampa-Hillsborough Transit Authority is planning on equipping 1,600 vehicles with specialized rear-view mirrors that can alert area drivers to changing traffic conditions and potential dangers. The vehicles will also send and receive information from the transportation authority that officials said can be used to optimize traffic and manage roadway congestion.

Tampa's Chief Traffic Engineer Vik Bhide said connecting vehicles and infrastructure could even end one of the area's most notorious type of collisions.

"Wrong way driving is a major local issue that we've had," Bhide said. "We've had many fatalities. We're using the connected vehicle deployment to address this concern on the fly," Bhide said.  

 The connected vehicles in the pilot project still require an active driver, which is different than other technologies such as autonomous or self-driving cars.

Rather than performing driving tasks for the drivers, connected vehicles simply give drivers vital informational about changing traffic conditions through audio alerts and  message displays.  

 A short-range radio and roof-mounted antenna are also installed in the vehicle to allow for real-time communication between the connected vehicles and crosswalks or traffic signals. Data from the connected vehicles in the pilot will also be shared with other cities looking to use the technology.

Mark Hamill, a representative with the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot, says both types of technology are going to be important for the future of transportation in Tampa.

"You're hearing a lot about automated vehicles," he said. "The vision for the future - and this is 10, 20 years away - is that all this converges. That the connected environment and the autonomous environment converge for a safer ride for everybody."

The pilot project, which will run from summer of 2018 through to the end of 2019, is one of three sites deploying connected vehicle technology with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation and other partners. Tampa, however, is the only site in which local residents are driving their own cars.

The Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority is currently recruiting drivers and pedestrians who frequent the area near the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway off-ramp onto Meridian Avenue and the Channel District. Participants receive a 30 percent rebate on expressway tolls.

To check for participation eligibility, visit www.TampaCVpilot.com